12 October 2005

Progress...Not Perfection. Not Even Close...

"...Many of us exclaimed, 'What an order! I can't go through with it.' Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection." Taken from page 60 of "The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous", Fourth Edition.

Thank you AA! Whew - as if I could possibly come remotely close to spiritual perfection. I fall so far from the mark many times. Some days I'm good and some days I am not so good.

In an earlier post, I wrote a few unnecessary remarks. It was one of those times I wasn't being so kind and I wasn't even tickling the "spiritual perfection" spectrum. I allowed the not so spiritual side of myself to take over the keyboard and have it's way.

This was brought to my attention by the person about whom my unkind remarks were directed and for that I must apologize. Regardless of what I may think, feel or believe in my heart to be true, being unnecessarily mean-spirited doesn't fall under the realm of "spirituality", even if it does share the root of the word.

After reading a recent E-mail, I realized that my words were hardly fashioned to serve anthing resembling a positive purpose and diminishing someone else certainly doesn't leave me shining any brighter. In fact, it's a tarnish that I don't need and, after a lot of thought, prayer and some soul-searching, I have gone back and deleted those unnecessary sentences - realizing, after giving things the proper forethought that I should have before ever writing them. While I can't pretend that I never wrote those words, I can certainly go back and use that invaluable key that is the equivalent of an electronic eraser. DELETE. And so I have.

It's a wonderful thing to simply go back and delete words and disarming a post of its venom. How easy it is to simply delete things in cyberspace. If only if we could so easily erase past actions and words spoken in haste that hang in the air and zap those around us with a painful sting. I've said and done many things in the past that I wish so much I could retract, but I can't. And just as The Big Book reminded me that none of us are perfect - even you non-alcoholics who might be reading this - The Big Book also provides me with encouragement - and as stated in "The Promises", it illustrates how even our misdeeds can be used for good - "We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others."

I guess good ole Bill W. must have guessed we could get so mired down with the business of regretting that we could sink into a kind of ineffective state of torpor, if we spent a great deal of time regretting all of the things we may have done - and in a way, time spent in a state of regret is basically time that's as wasteful as actually doing "the next wrong thing". In the end, it doesn't help anyone at all.

So we are prodded to pull ourselves up, lean on the good stuff (and yes, there is some!), and see what we can do with the experiences that make us wince, and spin them into something useful by sharing what we have done and where we have been, with someone who may be feeling far more hopeless. It's a tool that comes in handy and I must say that there have been many times I have found myself feeling better about me, and life in general, after hearing someone share the stuff they aren't particularly proud of. OK, sometimes it's just a flat out - "Wow, s/he did THAT? I didn't even go THERE. Maybe I'm not a complete waste of space!" [Side note: When someone is sharing a particularly painful and embarrassing past experience, it's best not to reveal that you are enjoying a "You did what???" moment. Try and contain those and save them for when you are alone and out of sight of the person who just bared his/her soul to you in an attempt to make you feel significant...]

If you look at the negatives and are seriously determined to walk a better path, those past experiences evolve into a useful tool that can make someone else feel as if they have half a chance and, for many of us in AA, half a chance is just about all we have going for us when we crawl into the rooms.

Besides, a lot of regret can turn into an unattractive and pointless exercise in self-pity and more of that stale "it's all about me!" business that we really need to rid ourselves of. I am constantly amazed at how very forward thinking and exceptionally timeless this program is and I am thankful for it only on a daily basis.

To the person that I offended, I offer an amends and a generous dose of delete. While I most certainly don't and, let's face it, never will see eye-to-eye with you on everything, there was absolutely no need for me to turn a blog into an assault weapon. There are enough of those around and we've both lobbed a few of them across the lines and throughout the years. Here's hoping for more peace.

I'm so glad I met that Bill W. guy. :-)